Preserve Little Italy - a collaboration with the San Diego Little Italy Association

In 2010 ISYS began a collaboration with San Diego's Little Italy Association (LIA) to research and document the rich history and geographies of San Diego's Little Italy neighborhood. A $40,000 grant was secured from the National Park Service through the Preserve America program, with matching funds committed by LIA and the office of County Supervisor Ron Roberts. The long-range goal of this project is to increase opportunities for heritage tourism in Little Italy, with research and documentation representing the first step in this direction. Geographers at SDSU are also interested in critically examining the ways in which the history and place identity of the neighborhood are understood by those inside and outside of the neighborhood and being sensitive to the emotional geographies of community members. The project will include collection of interviews of people with knowledge of the community's history, review of existing books and articles about the neighborhood, an inventory of historic structures and sites in the neighborhood, and identification of historic documents, photos and artifacts that can help visitors understand the local history and geography. All of this information will be tied together through mapping, with the goal being to use maps to help visitors navigate through the neighborhood and connect with its history through multimedia resources.

The project is also exciting because it is providing SDSU and local K-12 students with project-based learning experiences and opportunities to engage with the diversity of local neighborhoods and communities. Two Department of Geography graduate seminars - Professor Stuart Aitken's Politics and Place seminar in Fall 2010 and Dr. Fernando Bosco's City and Memory seminar in Spring 2011, both of which are being co-taught by Project Director Dr. Thomas Herman and Research Coordinator Dr. Giorgio Hadi Curti - have incorporated fieldwork for the "Preserve Little Italy" project as part of their curricula. MA student Lydia Wood is also making significant contributions to the project as part of her Graduate Assistantship. Local partnerships have been established with High Tech High School and Washington Elementary School.

Internet Links and Project Resources

Note: documents in Portable Document Format (PDF) require Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 or higher to view, download Adobe Acrobat Reader.


- USGS 1:62,500 San Diego Quadrangle, 1904 edition based on 1902 survey

- USGS 1:31,680 Point Loma Quadrangle, 1942

- USGS 1:24,000 Point Loma Quadrangle, 1953

- 1928 aerial photographs (files are 29 MB each): northern portion of Little Italy showing old shoreline and canneries; eastern portion of Little Italy, Balboa Park, and downtown

- North Embarcadero Visionary Plan

- North Embarcadero Visionary Plan - Cultural Resources Assessment from Environmental Impact Report

- Uptown Historic Context Statement and Oral History Report (relevant discussions of Middletown)


- Oral history interview of Katie Asaro in 1991 (Ms. Asaro was a Sicilian immigrant and cannery worker and her father was a fisherman before he began making and repairing nets)

- Oral history interview of Pasquale Giammarinaro in 1995 (Mr. Giammarinaro was born in Little Italy in 1925 and followed his father into the fishing business.)


- Video: segment on Little Italy from Ken Kramer's "About San Diego"

- Video: 2008 Sicilian Festival


- Reprinted Union-Tribune article from 9/5/2009: "San Diego was once 'tuna capital'"

- Union-Tribune article from 9/26/2009: "Tuna canneries' lasting legacy"

- La Prensa San Diego article from 8/14/1998: "The Pillar Remembered: The Story of the Cannery Workers"

- California Division of Fish and Game, Fish Bulleting No. 51: "The High Seas Tuna Fishery of California"

- July 1922 article from The American Food Journal: "Tuna Fish Packers on Coast Merge"

- Video: Port of San Diego Honors Tuna Cannery Workers

- Video: "Tuna - From Catch to Can," 1950s industry film made by Chicken of the Sea